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VATICAN CITY (RNS) “I have known six popes; not one of them sang or knew music as he does,” said Monsignor Pablo Colino, former choir master of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Colino was one of a group of Vatican officials, musical composers and record industry figures gathered in Rome on Tuesday (Nov. 10) to present a new album featuring Pope Benedict XVI in song and prayer.
“Alma Mater” features the pope’s voice accompanied by Gregorian chant and eight original works by three composers of different nationalities and religious faiths.
Geffen Records, whose artists include Ashlee Simpson and Snoop Dogg, will release the album on Nov. 30.
The new compositions were inspired by recordings of Benedict chanting and speaking in Latin and several modern languages.
“I was able to use the musicality of (the pope’s) voice,” said one of the composers, Simon Barlow, a self-described agnostic from England.
“His voice is incredibly appealing and very easy to write for.”
Boswell’s fellow composers on the album are Stefano Mainetti, an Italian Catholic, and Nour Eddine, a Muslim from Morocco.
The new compositions were performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Abbey Road studios, most famous for its association with the Beatles.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesman, said that the Vatican had received $48,830 for the right to use the pope’s voice and image on the “Alma Mater” album and video, which he said the pope had approved as a “spiritual service.”
Lombardi said that Benedict, a proficient pianist and lover of Mozart’s music, had received a copy of the album but had not yet communicated his opinion of it.
A portion of the profits from album sales will support music education for underprivileged children, said Colin Barlow, president of Geffen Records UK, who declined to specify the names of the charities or the share of profits they will receive until details of the arrangement become final.
In his recording venture, Benedict follows the lead of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, who released several albums during his 26-year pontificate, including one of him praying the Rosary. According to the BBC, that album rose to number 50 on the sales charts.
By Francis X. Rocca
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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